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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Piedras Verdes, loosely translated in English as "Mystic Stones", is the debut feature of director Ángel Flores Torres and starts out as pure soap opera melodrama but becomes something else. In fact, both Vanessa Bauche and veteran Mexican soap star Blanca Sánchez are no strangers to the genre. Bauche may be better known to English viewers who will remember her as Susanna in the acclaimed Perros Amores.

    Here she is Mariana, who has been sold as a black market baby to a rich and powerful Mexican couple when her mother unexpectedly dies in a horrible accident in the beginning scenes of the movie. She is sent off to Catholic boarding school until her adoptive father dies and she returns home, ambivalent about her life and plans. She clashes wills with her stepmother and after her car is stolen by a valet, of all things, she is evicted from the house and refused any inheritance. The most striking thing here is her determination and her strong willed determination to persevere in the face of adversity, and Bauche conveys this impressively.

    From there, her situation quickly deteriorates after she tries recreational drugs and moving in with a wealthy playboy. Her boyfriend becomes abusive and during one altercation she pushes him out the window, accidentally. She assumes he is dead and hastily runs away, not knowing where to go or what to do. Up to this point, the movie treads no new ground and is fairly predictable, yet it is all interesting somehow. The scenes where Mariana interacts with her stepmother provide the movie with the most momentum, unfortunately it is at this point her stepmother becomes ill and dies. It is here the movie becomes confusing, as it unexpectedly shifts gears and essentially changes genres, becoming a road movie (similar to Lucia, Lucia, a movie in which the pilgrimmage thing was presented much better). But it's a bad move, as director Torres leaves conventional ground and the movie uncomfortably changes scenes from Mexico City to the jungle, practically grinding to a halt and becoming bogged down in subterfuge, and later strange mystical going ons. Thereafter, the scene changes once again to the northern desert and stays there the rest of the movie, slightly picking up speed as she unravels information leading her to her real father, but losing focus again during a mystical desert sojourn which is confusing to the viewer. To put it bluntly, the movie bites off more than it can chew and spit out. Torres had a good thing going with the firm plot and characters he put forth, so it's not quite clear why he felt the need to convert the movie into something else than what he started out to convey. Bauche's acting is good, and in the first part when the focus is on her survival and ingenuity it clicks. I thought the usual themes of alienation, social isolation, violence in the barrio and police corruption would be addressed here, but they are just skimmed over here.

    No, this movie turns into a young woman's quest to find her biological father, which isn't as interesting as you'd think it would be. Frustratingly, the movie doesn't tie up loose ends, but leaves the viewer hanging. Director Torres intentions are good since it's obvious he is trying to discard the soap opera cliché in the beginning by embracing something unconventional, but there he is simply trying to cover too much territory. The premise set up in the beginning, though conventional, was a good thing, so why did he change it?

    Ultimately, this movie isn't really bad, but could've been so much better. It's interesting to note that this same theme, reworked and thrown together with several other subplots, was presented again a year after this movie as an individual story in "Ciudades Oscuras" (2002).
  • MemoGamero30 December 2002
    Was it confusing or it was just me? :)

    I wish if I could read the original novel, if any. I have got the impression the real message did not go through. Maybe a good story behind it, but definitely a bad movie, IMHO.

    That's it.
  • Avoid the stupid description on the back of the DVD which makes this film sound like a brainless soap opera. Also beware of some other IMDb reviews which contain spo!lers.

    THE LESS YOU KNOW ABOUT THE MOVIE, THE MORE REWARDING IT WILL BE FOR YOU.

    If it's too late and you've already read the description and/or spo!lers, never fear. A lot of them are misleading anyway. Just try your best to forget it all.

    All you need to know about the plot is that it's about a rich girl who has a run of bizarre revelations and decides to head out into the desert to do some soul searching. Pretty much what Buddha did 2500 years ago, but in this case there's a bit more sex & drugs than Buddha experienced, I'm guessing.

    The first half of the film contains elements of violence, sex, drugs, and harsh urban reality. The second half showcases nature, harmony, Shinto-like animistic philosophy, and surrealistic scenes. The last 15 minutes are when the two worlds come together.

    "Piedras Verdes" is creatively edited, using flashbacks, flashforwards, dream sequences, different film stocks, excellent music to fit the mood, and 1 or 2 moments of great comic relief to balance the heaviness. It may seem random at times, but rest assured everything has meaning. After seeing this film, I immediately watched it again and saw so much more depth & meaning in each scene.

    If you go into this film not knowing anything (which is the way it should be done), it will require some brain power to piece together exactly how it all fits. If you like films that require audience intelligence, like "Pi" (1998), "A Serious Man" (2009), or maybe even "The Usual Suspects" (1995), I think you'll dig this one.

    Visually and stylistically it reminds me of the films by Italian neo-surrealist Gabrielle Salvatores such as "Denti" (2000), "Io non ho paura" (2003), and "Mediterraneo" (1991). Portions also reminded me of Werner Herzog's films, the way animals are used symbolically and the way nature is presented as an envelopping force making our human lives seem puny. Another excellent director from the same class would be Wim Wenders and his films "Paris, Texas" (1984) and "Don't Come Knocking" (2005). And you might notice some similarities with Hungarian director Emir Kusturica. I can't think of too many Hollywood films I can compare "Piedras Verdes" to... maybe something by Terry Gilliam, like "Tideland" or "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" but that's sortofa stretch.

    This was the first Ángel Flores Torres film I've seen, and I was really impressed & surprised. If you like films that pack a lot of symbolic, artistic & philosophical surprises, definitely check this one out!
  • rowmorg25 October 2009
    A teenage girl in a dysfunctional relationship with her rich stepmother but with a fat wallet of credit cards, gets in a fix and falls in with a criminal who says he can sort her. The inevitable descent into sex and drugs is lightly handled, using some highly original cuts and edits. Eventually, the heroine sets out into the desert and the action hints at psychedelia as her lover makes a parallel journey. Eventually --- well, I won't go into that. The end is a little contrived, but the last frame offers ultimate relief. I went all the way with this picaresque picture, rooting for the realistic heroine all the way. Great writing and directing from Angel Flores Torres, one to watch, definitely.
  • I've just seen this movie and I have mixed feelings about it because it started good, in fact I thought that this was going to be a great movie, but later it turns slow and somewhat boring. Angel Flores Torres is a great music video director and it really shows here very beatiful shots and scenes very much in a music video fashion. Look for some cameos by the singer of Botellita de Jerez (I don't remember his name) and a busty gay who appears on Cafe Tacuba's video "Chilanga Banda". And speaking of Cafe Tacuba and all the soundtrack really fits the movie, somewhat like The Dust Brother's soundtrack in Fight Club. Go and see this, but don't expect too much.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is not your Hollywood 'formula' kind of movie. Its unpredictable and a bit disturbing at times. The surrealism of this film reminded me of the old Alejandro Jodorowsky films like El Topo and Santa Sangre. If you like odd and atmospheric type films and/or artistic Mexican films, then this is definitely worth a watch. The story takes viewers on a journey with the main character, a young woman of about 20 yrs of age, on her quest to find her biological father who split from the small Mexican town the moment his pregnant wife was killed. This is soon after her adoptive parents die a tragic death. What happens along the way is a mix of ugly and pretty. Extra note: The actor that plays Dellardo (Juan Claudio Retes)reminded me a bit of Chris Martin of Coldplay.